Saturday, November 20, 2004

Dramatic Child Porn Increase

Prosecutor Dramatizes Child Porn Increase
By BILL DRAPER, Associated Press Writer
November 19, 2004

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A federal prosecutor frustrated with an increase in the number of sexual predators who seek out young children saved up 16 cases in his Kansas district and put them before the same grand jury, hoping to illustrate the scope of the problem.
U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren draws no distinction between those who take lewd photographs of children and those who collect such images.
"I think it's a serious threat to our children out there that people who are looking at these pictures may mimic the action or themselves create these pictures," Melgren said. "Sadly, I suspect that most of these go undetected."
With the 16 indictments announced Thursday — 15 against Kansans for child pornography and one against an Arizona resident for traveling across state lines to have sex with a minor — Melgren's office has issued 30 indictments this year for those types of crimes.
That's a significant increase over the indictments his office issued for child pornography in previous years, including 22 each in 2002 and 2003.
Two of the 15 Kansas residents who were indicted Thursday already were on the state's sex offender list, according to a spokesman for Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline.
Nationally, the number of child porn/child exploitation cases handled by the FBI (news - web sites) grew from 113 in 1996 to 2,370 in 2002.

Flu Pandemic Could Kill Tens of Millions

Looming pandemic which could kill 10s of millions causing sleepless nights
Sat Nov 20, 8:21 AM ET

TORONTO (CP) - The global community of influenza experts is a small circle. These days, it's an exhausted, alarmed one as well.
Many influenza authorities are suffering sleepless nights, eyes trained on Asia where they fear a viral monster is readying itself to unleash a perfect storm of flu on the world.
Should that happen, what will follow will be a public health disaster that will make SARS (news - web sites) seem like child's play, they believe.
Between a quarter and a third of the world's population will fall ill, according to new World Health Organization (news - web sites) estimates, and one per cent of the sick will die.
Do the math and the numbers defy credulity; between 16 million and 21 million people would die in a matter of mere months. In Canada, 80,000 to 106,000 people would be expected to succumb.
Armed with that math, think of the consequences. Panic. Crippled health-care systems. Economic disruption on a global scale. Grounded airlines. Distribution networks that will grind to a halt. Social instability.
Or, "three years of a given hell," as a leading U.S. epidemiologist, Michael Osterholm, puts it: "I can't think of any other risk, terrorism or Mother Nature included, that could potentially pose any greater risk to society than this."
Until recently, official guesstimates of the expected death toll of a new pandemic have been modest. Using mathematical models devised by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Canada's public health agency estimates between 11,000 to 58,000 here people might die.
The CDC models point to between two million and seven million deaths worldwide.
Many question those figures and say they're far too rosy. And many believe the WHO's new numbers are overly optimistic as well.
Osterholm is one of them. He's done age-adjusted calculations based on the experience of the 1918 Spanish flu, the worst pandemic in known history.
Laying 1918 fatality rates over the world's current population, Osterholm suggests between 36 million and 177 million people would die if a pandemic of similar severity hit again. (The top figure is based on half the world's population becoming infected.)
But public discussion of numbers like those makes many in the flu world nervous, fearing the figures are so impossibly large they take on the mantle of science fiction.
"None of these models can 100 per cent predict what's going to be happening. And it would be wrong in my view to always play the worst case scenario," cautions Dr. Klaus Stohr, head of the WHO's global influenza program.
"Irrespective of what type of model we are talking about, the figures are certainly not comforting," he continues. "None of these estimates would suggest that we should let down our efforts in pandemic preparedness."
But Osterholm and others around the globe are extremely concerned those efforts are moving at a snail's pace. They fear governments and vaccine companies are dismissing the potential disaster as too hypothetical, too apocryphal.
"This to me is akin to living in Iowa . . . and seeing the tornado 35 miles away coming. And it's coming. And it's coming. And it's coming. And it keeps coming," says Osterholm, who is a special adviser to U.S. Health Secretary Tommy Thompson and associate director of Homeland Security's National Center for Food Protection and Defence.

"You just see it. And we're largely ignoring it."
The "it" Osterholm refers to is a nasty strain of influenza A known as H5N1, so named because of the hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N) proteins on the virus's outer shell. Though flu is notoriously unpredictable, H5N1 is currently considered the leading candidate to spark the next pandemic.
With 500 years of history to guide them, experts say flu pandemics are inevitable.
The highly unstable RNA viruses are constantly recombining (mutating) and reassorting (swapping genes with each other). The result: new forms of flu are always finding ways to slip past the immune system's sentries to pick the lock of the human respiratory tract.
When an entirely new version appears, one to which no one has any immunity, a pandemic occurs. And with 36 years having elapsed since the last pandemic, experts warn another could come at any time.
The thought of an H5N1 pandemic chills the hearts of those who've been following the virus's evolution since it was first known to have infected humans, in Hong Kong in 1997.
Dr. Keiji Fukuda of the CDC's flu branch investigated the Hong Kong outbreak and others since. He sighs softly when asked whether the prospect of an H5N1 pandemic robs him of sleep.
"More nights than I like," admits Fukuda, head of epidemiology for the branch.
Fukuda chooses his words with care. He often describes H5N1 developments as "spooky," the closest he gets to hyperbole.
"When a pandemic will occur and what the agent might be is completely unknowable," he says.
"Nonetheless I think that all of us are definitely working under an increased sense of urgency because of all of the events that have gone on in Asia. . . .
"We know that we're not adequately prepared. And to that extent we are pushing things pretty urgently."
Since the beginning of the year H5N1 has killed millions of chickens and forced the culling of tens of millions more in at least nine Southeast Asian countries.
It has defied longstanding flu dogma by directly infecting and killing mammals previously thought to be immune to an avian virus, house cats, leopards and tigers among them.
It's also killed 32 of the 42 people - mainly children and young adults - known to have caught it in Vietnam and Thailand. There is much suspicion in the flu world that other deaths elsewhere have gone unreported.
Efforts to eradicate the virus from chicken stocks have so far failed. Some believe the virus has become endemic in a region where dense human populations live cheek by jowl with animals that can be a mixing bowl for virus reassortment.
Factor in the inadequacy of the international vaccine system, which under current regulatory rules could only produce enough pandemic vaccine for a fraction of the world's people, add the lack of surge capacity in hospitals the world over and the picture looks bleak, says Osterholm, who is also director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
"You keep adding all these things up and you see - we are talking about a perfect storm."
More worrisome still is the fact that H5N1 is currently behaving much like the dreaded Spanish flu, which had the astonishing capacity to swiftly kill people in the prime of life.
Flu generally kills the old and the very young; it weakens their systems, making them prey to secondary infections like pneumonias which they can't fight.
But the Spanish flu was different. It's believed that virus sparked what's called a cytokine storm - a cascading hyper-reaction of the immune system so severe that attacking the invader actually killed the host.
"Everything that we're seeing in the virus-host interaction in Southeast Asia says cytokine storm," Osterholm says.
If H5N1 becomes a pandemic strain and retains that fearsome feature, in addition to the very young and the very old - flu's normal targets - young, healthy people with robust immune systems would be at great risk.

Former Minister Accuses Federal Government of Fraud

Saturday, November 20, 2004
Sheila blasts Liberals

I host a nightly current affairs TV program called The Michael Coren Show. We air on CTS, on basic cable in Ontario and on satellite throughout Canada.
This past week, Sheila Copps was my guest. I was prepared to hear her rehearsed answers about her new book and her relationship with the Prime Minister. I was surprised.
Here is how it went.
"I thought he should have read (the book), considering he was quick to say there was nothing in it that was true," she says of her former leader. "Usually it's good to read something before you pass judgment on it."
So, I ask her, does this, and the other things you claim, mean the Prime Minister of Canada is telling lies?
"Yes, of course he is."
In an interview that goes well beyond anything she states in her book, Worth Fighting For, Sheila Copps alleges thuggery, fraud and dishonesty on the part of Paul Martin and those around him -- charges Martin and his staff have vehemently denied.
"He will go to any length to get there. To be Prime Minister. He's not an honest person," Copps says.
So you dislike him? A long pause. "Yes." Another pause. "Yes, yes I do. I don't like him because I don't like people who smile at me and tell me wonderful things and then behind my back stab me."
Copps is direct and deliberate. "It became personal when I went to see him just before the cabinet was named. I said I didn't care if I was in it or not but asked him to allow me to run in one riding and Tony Valeri to run in another. He averted his eyes -- he doesn't look in your eye when he doesn't want to give you bad news."
Valeri is now the MP for the Stoney Creek riding in Hamilton. He and Copps fought each other in an ugly Liberal nomination race. "The nomination was so dishonest. I was actually shocked to see how blatant the Liberal Party was in cheating," she says, adding: "This was organized fraud by the highest level of the government."
I ask her if she is seriously accusing high-ranking Liberals of fraud. She replies that she most certainly is.
"We actually have an official of the party on tape ushering my opponent's voters in through a secret back door."
Then, just as I assume she has finished, she goes on: "I can get you an affidavit tomorrow from someone who got a $100 bill in Saskatchewan to vote for Paul Martin."
So, I ask, people were bribed to vote for Paul Martin?
"Yes. Yes. His chief thugs are doing his dirty work for him."
Copps uses the word "thug" several times to describe senior people in the Martin camp. "They literally went in the night before and deleted 400 of my members from the computer list."
She continues, "500 more ballots cast than people who entered the room. Paul Martin was aware of it, believe me."
I suggest Martin is a popular leader who duly won the leadership of his party and the country (his only opponent was Copps, whom he beat overwhelmingly). She counters: "In the course of the leadership, so many MPs were told point-blank that if they didn't support Martin they would be got out of their riding."
Then, a little later: "Part of the strategy of the current Prime Minister to make sure there were no opponents and no real debate was to get a lock on who got members and how. He secured victory by disqualifying thousands of bona fide voters." (Again, Martin and his people have refuted all of this.)
Copps argues that Martin is being defended by cabinet members and backbench MPs out of fear and intimidation, that the Prime Minister is "not a Liberal" and that there is no openness within government or within the Liberal Party.
She even says it is hypocritical to advise countries such as Haiti and Afghanistan about democracy when the Liberals have elected and maintained a leader with such disregard for the same.
I joke that she's probably been removed from the Prime Minister's Christmas card list.
"No joke" she says. "I was, a year ago."

Gay 'Marriage' Losing Even in Norway

Christian Conservatives Trumping Gay "Marriage" even in Norway

OSLO, November 19, 2004 ( - Norway's parliament voted Thursday to reject a proposal to make same-sex "marriage" legal.

The measure, tabled by the Socialist Left (SV) Party in March, sought to eliminate all reference to gender in the country's marriage laws. Norway currently allows civil union arrangements for same-sex couples.

The measure was voted down, largely because of opposition from Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik's Christian Democrat Party. Bondevik is also a Lutheran minister.

The Agence France Presse pointed out, however, that same-sex couples can already have children, because lax laws in Denmark allow for artificial insemination from anonymous donors.

Deputy Ulf Erik Knudsen acknowledged that "children grow up in better conditions when they have a mother and father as role models."

Canadian Super-Surveillance System

Super-surveillance system tracks everything 'from bugs to bombs'
By: Joaquim P. Menezes
CIO Government Review (19 Nov 2004)

A revolutionary public health warning system from the Public Health Agency of Canada just got the global recognition it deserves.
GPHIN2 — an enhanced and automated version of Health Canada’s earlier Global Public Health Intelligence Network — was officially launched at the United Nations yesterday. The Web-based tracking system identifies threats to public health.
Its launch was attended by public and private sector personalities, including Federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, chief public health officer of Canada, Dr. David Butler-Jones, former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, and U.S. media magnate Ted Turner.
The system monitors and analyzes more than 10,000 information sources in seven languages — English, French, Arabic, traditional and simplified Chinese, Russian and Spanish.
Each day, information from nearly 20,000 news reports is retrieved based on specific search criteria. This colossal collection of data is then appraised by analysts for further relevance, and disseminated to public health professionals worldwide.
GPHIN2 is the latest incarnation of the GPHIN platform launched by Health Canada seven years ago in response to a very real need.
“Health Canada wanted a system that could relay information on potential outbreaks directly to the international public health bodies,” said Abla Mawaudeku, GPHIN manager.
In the absence of such a system, she said, it would take months for information about an outbreak to filter through the various jurisdictions and levels of government — local, municipal, provincial and federal — and finally get to the World Health Organization. “Sometimes information was just not passed on,” Mawaudeku said.
With GPHIN, she said, intelligence is transmitted swiftly to stakeholders worldwide. “If there’s an outbreak in Congo, relevant information can be retrieved from local sources and relayed to international public health officials in seconds. These officials, in turn, can then verify the facts with the concerned country or region.”
Mawudeku, who is an epidemiologist, said GPHIN monitors infectious diseases not just in humans, but in animals and plants as well, and also tracks chemical incidents, radioactive exposures, dangerous products, natural disasters and much more. “Essentially we monitor everything from bugs to bombs. But always from the standpoint of how it impacts public health.”
GPHIN, she said, can monitor classical outbreak metrics — such as the number of infected people and resulting deaths — as well as the magnitude of the threat. During the SARS outbreak, she said, information was retrieved not just from affected countries but also from regions across Asia. “That helped us determine the event’s geographic distribution.”
The system also tracks “remedial” measures adopted by countries or and public carriers, such as airlines, to protect travelers.
More than 40 per cent of WHO information on potential public health risks comes from GPHIN — information, which when verified with member countries, usually proves to be remarkably accurate.
According to Mawudeku, GPHIN retrieved the first suggestive report on SARS in November 2002. It was an article in Chinese on how an unusual number of otherwise healthy people were visiting hospital emergency rooms with acute respiratory illness symptoms. “That information was disseminated,” to public health authorities. A month later, she said, another article in Chinese was retrieved on how a large number of people in China’s Guangdong province were falling ill.
She said it was only in January 2003 that the first English article was retrieved. “Even that didn’t mention an outbreak, but was about the increase in anti-viral drug sales by a pharmaceutical company. From that we deduced something unusual was going on.”
While the earlier GPHIN system worked, it required many analysts to review and make sense of information coming in. “The system was very cumbersome,” Mawudeku said.
Given the sheer volume of reports scanned, she said, it was only possible to translate the title, create a two-line summary of contents and send it to users. “We realized we needed a more efficient system…one capable of managing massive amounts of information, and assisting in its translation and timely dissemination.”
Nstein Technologies, she said, provided technology with these capabilities. “They had components that could organize unstructured information and translate it in near real time.”
According to Laurent Proux, chief technology officer, Nstein, GIIM is able to analyze news natively in the various languages, so there is no information loss.
GIIM’s value proposition, he said, is its ability to transform unstructured information to valuable business intelligence solutions.
This capability he said is being harnessed by several verticals — government, legal, defense, publishing, academia and more. “It helps these organizations move from a reactive to a proactive, and some cases, even to a predictive mode.”

Vatican Official Bemoans Aggressive Secularism

Secular forces 'pushing God to margins'
By Bruce Johnston in Milan and Jonathan Petre
(Filed: 20/11/2004)

A leading contender to become the next Pope launched a fierce attack on the
forces of secularism yesterday, arguing that they were fostering intolerance
in Europe and forcing Christianity underground.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 77, one of the Vatican's most powerful figures,
issued a rallying cry to the faithful, saying that the liberal consensus had
now evolved into a "worrying and aggressive" ideology.

As a result, "Catholic and Christian religion" had been pushed out of the
public debate and was being "driven into the margins".

The warning, in a long interview in La Repubblica, Italy's Left-leaning
newspaper, comes as the Bavarian-born cardinal, who is the Pope's doctrinal
chief, is being viewed as an important late entry for the papacy.

Coming shortly after MEPs refused to approve the Italian politician Rocco
Buttiglione as European justice commissioner because of his strong Catholic
views on gays and women, his statements may be seen by some as something of
a manifesto.

The cardinal was speaking against a backdrop of rapidly declining priestly
vocations in Europe which is worrying Church leaders.

Describing the development of a "secular ideological aggression" across the
continent as "cause for concern," the cardinal said: "In Sweden, a
Protestant minister who preached about homosexuality on the basis of an
excerpt from the scriptures was put in jail for a month.

"Secularism is no longer that element of neutrality, which opens up space
for freedom for all. It is beginning to change into an ideology which,
through politics, is being imposed.

"It concedes no public space to the Catholic and Christian vision, which as
a result runs the risk of turning into a purely private matter, so that deep
down it is no longer the same.

"In this sense a struggle exists and so we must defend religious freedom
against an ideology which is held up as if it were the only voice of
rationality, when instead it is only an expression of a 'certain'

In contemporary society, said the cardinal, who is the Prefect of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, God had been pushed "very much
into the margins".

"In politics, it seems to be almost indecent to speak about God, almost as
it were an attack on the freedom of someone who doesn't believe," he said.

The cardinal added: "A secularism which is just, is a freedom of religion.
The state does not impose a religion, but rather provides free space to
those religions with a responsibility to civil society."

The society in which we now lived was one where there was a great deal of

"Negative birth rates and immigration are changing Europe's ethnic make-up.
Above all we've gone from being a Christian culture to one of aggressive
secularism which at times is intolerant."

He said that even though "churches were emptying" and people were "no longer
able to believe," Christian faith was "not dead".

He said he remained convinced of hope's inner strength, even if the future
of the Church lay more in "other continents" than Europe.

Cardinal Ratzinger, once viewed as the likely papal "kingmaker", is now
believed to stand a good chance himself precisely because of his advanced

Vatican watchers maintain that long-serving popes tend to be succeeded by
short-lived "interim" papacies.

Despite his arch-conservative popular image, the cardinal often reveals a
frankness and readiness to discuss even the most delicate subjects. .

He admitted that the gulf between the Church and its faithful over sexuality
was a matter for "further reflection".

He said that the Pill had "separated sexuality from fertility and so has
deeply changed the concept of life itself.

"The sexual act has lost its meaning and purpose. . . to the point that all
kinds of sexuality have become the equivalents of each other. The main
consequence is the placing of homosexuality and heterosexuality on equal

Friday, November 19, 2004

British Government Plans Arrest Without Evidence

'Arrest without evidence' planned by Government
London Telegraph | November 17 2004

The Government is planning a change in the law to allow police to arrest suspects without evidence, it was claimed today.
The Law Society said it believed the new powers would be included in the Bill which will create the new British FBI.
It warned that the cumulative effect of the Government's clampdown on crime and terrorism would be a step towards a police state.
Janet Paraskeva, the Law Society's chief executive, said: "The Government is in serious danger of overstating the threat to public order and national security and bringing in draconian new laws, which will take away centuries of hard won rights.
"If the Bill to establish the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) includes the power to arrest someone without evidence, then solicitors could not support it.
"That would be a serious step in the direction of a police state.
"Anyone could be lifted from the streets or from their homes just on the basis of suspicion."
She added: "The threat to end jury trials for terrorism cases is another chipping away of the centuries old rights for people to be tried before a jury of their peers, which goes back to Magna Carta."
Soca will have around 5,000 investigators to crack down on serious crime and fraud, merging the National Crime Squad, the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the investigating arms of customs and the immigration service.
A Law Society spokesman said they had been told on good authority that the new powers of arrest were being considered by ministers.

Outraged Greeks Say Alexander Wasn't Bisexual

RPT-Outraged Greeks say Alexander was not bisexual

ATHENS, Nov 19 (Reuters) - A group of Greek lawyers are threatening to sue Warner Bros film studios and Oliver Stone, director of the widely anticipated film "Alexander," for suggesting Alexander the Great was bisexual.

The lawyers have already sent an extrajudicial note to the studio and director demanding they include a reference in the title credits saying his movie is a fictional tale and not based on official documents of the life of the Macedonian ruler.

"We are not saying that we are against gays but we are saying that the production company should make it clear to the audience that this film is pure fiction and not a true depiction of the life of Alexander," Yannis Varnakos, who spearheads the campaign by 25 lawyers, told Reuters on Friday.

Stone was quoted on the Web Site as telling the upcoming edition of Playboy magazine that the film's depiction of Alexander could offend some.

"We go into his bisexuality. It may offend some people, but sexuality in those days was a different thing," he was quoted as saying.

While the film starring Colin Farrell and Angelina Jolie will be released on Nov. 24, Varnakos said he has already gathered enough information regarding the content of the movie to suggest there are "inappropriate references."

"We have not seen the film but from the information we have already there are references to his alleged homosexuality, a fact that is in no historical document or archive on Alexander," he said. "Either they make it clear that this is a work of fiction or we will take the case further."

This is not the first time Greeks have been angered by suggestions Alexander was homosexual and had affairs with young men.

Two years ago hundreds of northern Greeks from the province of Macedonia, where he was born, stormed an archaeological symposium after one speaker presented a paper on the homosexuality of Alexander. Police were called in to evacuate the participants.

One of the greatest military leaders of all time, Alexander, who was never defeated in battle, conquered about 90 percent of the then-known world before his mysterious death at the age of 32, building an empire that stretched from the Mediterranean to Afghanistan.

Varnakaos said as Stone has the right to freely express himself, the audience should have the right to know.

"We cannot come out and say that (former U.S.) President John F. Kennedy was a shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team and so Warner cannot come out and say Alexander was gay," Varnakos said.

11/19/2004 12:09

Porn Addiction Destroying Lives, Senate Told

Addiction to porn destroying lives, Senate told
CONNIE CASS, Associated Press Writer
Thursday, November 18, 2004

(11-18) 16:07 PST WASHINGTON (AP) -- Comparing pornography to heroin, researchers on Thursday called on Congress to finance studies on "porn addiction" and launch a public health campaign about the dangers.
"We're so afraid to talk about sex in our society that we really give carte blanche to the people who are producing this kind of material," said James B. Weaver, a Virginia Tech professor who studies the impact of pornography.
Internet pornography is corrupting children and hooking adults into an addiction that threatens their jobs and families, a panel of anti-porn advocates told the hearing organized by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., chairman of the Commerce subcommittee on science.
Brownback, a father of five, said when he was a boy, the typical kid's exposure was limited to occasional peeks at dirty magazines illicitly obtained by a buddy.
Now, he said, pornography seems pervasive. Children run across it while researching homework on the Internet. Vulgar ads arrive unexpectedly by e-mail. Some of his middle-age male friends limit their time alone in hotel rooms to avoid the temptation of graphic pay-per-view movies, Brownback said.
Mary Anne Layden, co-director of a sexual trauma program at the University of Pennsylvania, said pornography's effect on the brain mirrors addiction to heroin or crack cocaine. She told of one patient, a business executive, who arrived at his office at 9 a.m. each day, logged onto Internet porn sites, and didn't log off until 5 p.m.
Layden called for billboards and bus ads warning people to avoid pornography, strip clubs and prostitutes.
The panel discussion ranged from hardcore, violent pornography to audience complaints about a sexually suggestive promo that aired prior to this week's "Monday Night Football" game.
Brownback, an outspoken Christian conservative who has championed efforts to curb indecency on television and the Internet, said the public is beginning to realize "they don't just have to take it."
But he acknowledged the First Amendment right to free speech has limited congressional efforts.
In June, the Supreme Court blocked a law designed to shield Web-surfing children from pornography, ruling that requiring adults to register or use access codes before viewing objectionable material would infringe on their rights.
Brownback said scientific data is needed to help his cause.
Weaver acknowledged that research "directly assessing the impact of pornography addiction on families and communities is rather limited."
But he pointed to studies that show prolonged use of pornography leads to "sexual callousness, the erosion of family values and diminished sexual satisfaction."
Judith Reisman, a vocal critic of the Kinsey Institute and the field of sexology, suggested Congress require police officers to gather evidence of pornography at crime scenes to further research.

The Mystery of Lee Harvey Oswald

The mystery of Lee Harvey Oswald

Look at Lee Harvey Oswald, and you see a loser -- a scrawny young man with a receding hairline, a poor student who joined the Marines and was court-martialed twice, a potential Soviet spy who couldn't shoot straight, operate a shortwave radio, or load a camera, a failed suicide, a failed husband, somebody who knew what the insides of an unemployment office looked like, an accused presidential assassin captured a mere 75 minutes after his crime, a despised murder victim whose pallbearers were the reporters at his funeral.
Look more closely, and you see this -- a man of intelligence who spoke Russian and could hold his own on radio debates, someone who had the nerve to defect to the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, a loving father of two young daughters, the nephew-in-law of a Soviet official, a U.S. citizen who professed that the Kennedys were "interesting" people.
And, just as intriguing as his life, was Oswald's death -- a cold execution by a petty hoodlum on live national television as millions watched, only two days after President Kennedy's assassination. The killer, Jack Ruby, claimed he was grief-stricken and wanted to spare Jacqueline Kennedy the agony of a trial. But had Ruby really been ordered to silence Oswald as part of a conspiracy?
The Warren Commission said no. Appointed by President Johnson, it concluded in 1964 that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone in assassinating President Kennedy. Any number of conspiracy theorists disagree, however.
What is surprising, though, is how often the figure of Lee Harvey Oswald emerges in many of these conspiracy theories. Some who cast suspicion on the CIA say Oswald was recruited as the hit man. Believers in a KGB link suggest that Oswald may have been trained to be a sort of Manchurian Candidate programmed killer, or that he was set up by the Soviets, or that he was a Soviet spy. Supporters of a mob theory bring up the organized crime connections of members of Oswald's family in New Orleans. For those who ascribe to a Cuban connection, there is the story of the man identifying himself as Oswald who visited the Cuban embassy in Mexico City to obtain a visa. On the flip side of the Cuba question, theorists have Oswald, who tried to infiltrate the anti-Castro movement, as either its patsy or its hit man, an agent of a plan to kill the president who had betrayed Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs.
Perhaps most intriguing is the idea that there was not one Oswald, but two, that long before the shots in Dealey Plaza rang out, a secret organization -- maybe the CIA, maybe the KGB, maybe the FBI -- had recruited a look-alike to live a life parallel to Oswald's. Indeed, on various official records, ranging from Oswald's Marines examinations to his autopsy report, the suspect's height fluctuates from 5 feet 8 inches in 1956, 5 feet 11 inches in 1959 and 5 feet, 9 inches in 1963. Surely Oswald could have grown, but did he shrink?
A simple possibility is that doctors or other officials measured Oswald wrong. But critics also point to photographs taken of Oswald while he lived in Minsk in the Soviet Union. They show a man with a thicker face, thicker hair and a broader chin than the "real" Oswald. In another picture, Oswald stands next to his wife, who was supposed to have been 5 foot, 3 inches tall. Yet Oswald appears to be only a little taller than she. Had the "real" Oswald, the one born in New Orleans and the one who died at 24 in Dallas, been recruited to go underground while another American, a skilled agent of intelligence, was sent to Moscow in his place? After all, despite his status as a defector, Oswald returned to the United States in 1962 with little ado.
In another variation of the two-Oswalds theory, English author Michael Eddowes suggested in The Oswald File that Kennedy had been killed by a Soviet agent posing as Oswald. Yet when the body buried in Oswald's grave was exhumed in 1981, dental comparisons showed that the remains were those of the "historical" Oswald.
Further complicating matters is that, in the days before the assassination, Oswald look-alikes popped up all over the Dallas area. One, who identified himself as Lee Oswald and said he was in the market for a used car, took a vehicle on a lively spin, the speeds of which reached 70 miles per hour. The only trouble was, Lee Harvey Oswald was at home -- and he didn't know how to drive. Some acquaintances even said he was too uncoordinated to do so. After all, this was a man so clumsy he had accidentally shot himself in the arm.
There were also Oswald sightings at a barber's and in a furniture store and in a gun shop. A grocer said he cashed a $189 check -- a bigger one than Oswald was ever known to have had -- made out to "Harvey Oswald." On all these occasions, Oswald was known to have been somewhere else. Yet the witnesses said they were positive it had been him. Was someone setting up Oswald?
Yet might not Oswald have been the lone killer? His behavior after the assassination is certainly curious: Seen 90 seconds after the assassination by a police officer and the building supervisor, Oswald appeared cool and collected. He left the building unhurriedly, by the farthest exit. He first boarded a bus heading back to the Texas School Book Depository, got off, then hailed a cab that he was prepared to yield to an elderly woman. Getting out of the cab a few blocks from his boarding house, he is there only a few minutes; while he is inside, a police car pulls up, honks its horn, then drives away. Forty minutes later, police arrest an angry and defiant Oswald in a theater. Had he gone there to hide, to meet someone, or simply because he wanted to watch War Is Hell, starring Van Heflin?
In his 1993 book Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK, Gerald Posner claims that Oswald was indeed Kennedy's assassin -- and one who acted alone. He says that understanding Oswald is the key to understanding what happened on Nov. 22, 1963.
Posner portrays an Oswald who is a solitary, cold-blooded master of his emotions, a man "driven by his own twisted and impenetrable furies" who thirsted for attention and a place in history. A Dallas police officer described Oswald as "a man who enjoyed the situation immensely and was enjoying the publicity and everything that was coming his way."
Dallas Detective Jim Leavell recalled: "I never saw him raise his voice, and he seemed to answer questions easily. He had a smile a lot of the time, kind of a smirk, really, sort of like he knew something you didn't."
Posner also related this incident: After his arrest, Oswald was questioned about two plastic ID cards that had been in his billfold, one bearing the name Lee Harvey Oswald, the other Alek Hidell. "Which one are you?" a detective asked. With a smirk, Oswald coolly replied: "You figure it out."
George de Mohrenschildt, a member of the tiny Russian community in Dallas, whom Posner described as Oswald 's only friend, said Oswald wanted people to be interested in him. De Mohrenschildt also called Oswald a "semi-educated hillbilly" whom no government "would be stupid enough to trust with anything important."
During a 1993 visit to Houston, Posner described Oswald to the Chronicle: "This was not a man fixated on Kennedy or who had a personal dislike of Kennedy. He hates the system. He hates the Soviet system, and he hates the American system. . . . Kennedy is strictly a target of opportunity.
"He realizes he has an opportunity to strike out, to throw a (wrench) in the machinery of the system. The Oswald I understand from my work could have been in a sixth-floor window shooting Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow."
In his extensive Oswald's Tale, Norman Mailer doesn't seem sure whether Oswald did indeed kill the president, but he suggests he could have. Surely, he gives the young man who died before 20 million people more credit than others have: Correcting Oswald's writings of the atrocious spelling errors that Mailer says were the result of dyslexia, the writer reveals a man of intelligence. But perhaps never to be resolved is the question of whether more than one kind of intelligence was involved in the mystery of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Hate Crime at Baptist Church

Vandals Spray-Paint Satanic Messages At Church
POSTED: 6:27 am EST November 19, 2004

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. -- Vandals spray-painted Satanic slogans and symbols on a church near Hillsborough in what authorities are calling a felony hate crime.
Six-six-six, upside-down crosses and pentagrams were splashed with bright orange paint early Wednesday on a bulletin board, at the church entrance, and on a storage building.
Letters on a sign at Cross Roads Baptist Church were scrambled to say "Hail Satan" and call congregation members fools to pray to God.
Orange County authorities are investigating the offense, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
Pastor Philip Moore says his congregation has an idea for punishing the culprits: let them choose between spending a year attending the church or spending the year in prison.
If they choose church, Moore says he and the congregation would -- quote -- "just love them to death, and they'd change."

Create 'Best' Child Possible, Says Bioethicist

Create best child possible, as our future depends on it: bioethicist
By Amanda Dunn

Parents have an obligation to have the "best" child possible, and that includes using genetic technologies to enhance humans. To neglect to do so would consign future generations to chance, rather than making rational choices about how we should live, Julian Savulescu, a bioethicist at Oxford University and Melbourne's Murdoch Children's Research Institute, said yesterday.
Speaking at a Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics seminar at Melbourne University, Professor Savulescu said the idea of enhancing children was no different from sending a child to the best school.
"If you're going to have a child you should have the best child you can," he said.
In the end, he argued, there were only two choices: either reject medical technology in its entirety or embrace it. To want to engage in only parts of it was morally ambiguous.
"Once we accept intervening in how things are naturally, for the treatment of disease, relief of pain, we've accepted that we can intervene in God's will or in nature for the better," he said. "And why should we stop at relieving pain, or prolonging life? Surely what matters is how well our lives go."

Hollywood Explores Sexual Diversity

Posted on Sun, Nov. 14, 2004
Hollywood ‘bi’-product
Films, stars taking on trend of sexually diverse characters
By Teresa Wiltz
Washington Post

Call it a trend in two directions: Hollywood’s It crew, from Charlize Theron to Billy Crudup to Liam Neeson to Colin Farrell, suddenly are all exploring Gore Vidal’s pronouncement that “everyone is bisexual.”
Perhaps no other current movie explores bisexuality with such dispassionate interest than does the biopic “Kinsey,” which stars Neeson as the zoologist with a clinical fixation on all things sexual: Two men share a room in a hotel. It’s a business trip; they are colleagues; twin beds divide them. The older man talks on the phone to his wife while the other man, a much younger man, drops his trousers. He doesn’t bother to cover up. He is young; he is beautiful; why should he? Through the telephone wires, the wife sounds strained, worried. Perhaps she senses what will come next.
With a click of the phone, the men sit staring at each other from across the twin beds, indulging in a little verbal foreplay: Where are you on the gay-straight meter? Somewhere in the middle, they both admit. Surely there’s nothing wrong with that, they murmur. They reach toward each other, and with a great, bruising kiss, they consummate the attraction that has been building between them.
Or how about this scene from “Stage Beauty,” which opened this month, starring Crudup and Claire Danes: Two men wrestle about on a bed, believing that they are alone. One is tall and mustachioed; the other shorter and prettier. The tall one places a long blond wig on the pretty one. They make love as a woman watches in the shadows, in tears. Later the woman will sleep with the pretty man, and they will play with all sorts of possibilities. But in the end, she will want to know this: Are you a man or a woman? “I don’t know,” he tells her.
Or this one, from “Head in the Clouds,” also released recently, with Theron and Penelope Cruz: Two women, both beautiful, one a blonde, one a brunette, kiss. She loves her; and she loves her; but one of the she’s also loves him, a him who looks on with – detachment? jealousy? arousal? – as the blonde bites the brunette’s lush lips, drawing blood.
No longer relegated to the outskirts of lower-than-low budget indie flicks, big-ticket films this year are matter-of-factly, with minimal judgment, exploring characters who are either and or, men and women who flit between men and women. There’s almost always a love triangle involved, the better with which to juxtapose the conflict of choice and desire.
In the past, cinematic bisexuality was frequently a shorthand for unrepentant decadence, a world where anything goes, as in Bob Fosse’s “Cabaret” (1972), where the sexually ambiguous master of ceremonies, played by Joel Grey, extols the virtues of “two for one” love: “We switch partners daily/ To play as we please/ Twosies beats onesies/ But nothing beats threes.” There was Marlon Brando in “Reflections in a Golden Eye,” (1967) playing a man married to Elizabeth Taylor but lusting after Robert Forster. In 2003 Oscar darling “The Hours,” each of its three female characters – Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep (she plays a lesbian mom who has conflicted feelings for a gay man) – in a moment of emotional perturbation, suddenly grabs a woman and kisses her.
Then there are the vampire movies. Marjorie Garber, author of “Vice Versa: Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life,” notes the big role of vampires in the canon of bisexual flicks: Tom Cruise as the coolly elegant Lestat, pining over Brad Pitt and a prepubescent Kirsten Dunst in 1994’s “Interview With the Vampire.” David Bowie and Susan Sarandon taking on Catherine Deneuve in 1983’s “The Hunger.” The seductive sirens in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992) munching on Keanu Reeves as Gary Oldman has a hissy fit because he’d saved Reeves for himself. And let us not forget Tim Curry’s transsexual Transylvanian in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” who takes malicious glee in seducing anyone and everyone who strays his way.
But with the increasing popularity of indie flicks, things changed and the stereotypes softened. Perhaps it was Kevin Smith’s “Chasing Amy,” in which Ben Affleck plays a cartoonist who falls in love with Joey Lauren Adams’ character, a lesbian with a past filled with male and female lovers. Or “Kissing Jessica Stein,” a comedy widely hailed as a breakthrough film for lesbians, which was actually about two bisexual women who meet cute, get together, break up and end up settling down with other people.
“Frida,” the biopic about the acclaimed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, gave us the beauteous Salma Hayek with a mustache and a limp, hitting on men and women alike, particularly when the women were her husband Diego Rivera’s extramarital lovers.
Today, we’ve got male actors known for their macho appeal signing up for sexually ambidextrous roles. This month, we’ll see Farrell playing “Alexander,” the great man notorious for his attractions to both men and women.
In a year marked by a scandal involving a bisexual governor and the hoopla surrounding a book about bisexual black men (“On the Down Low,” by J.L. King), do these films reflect a growing maturity about sexuality and all its complexities? Or an acceptance in Alfred C. Kinsey’s notion that we’re all basically bisexual, to one degree or another?

Gay 'Marriage' Applications Slow to a Trickle

Fewer gay couples seek marriage licenses
By Scott S. Greenberger, Globe Staff | November 18, 2004

The number of gay and lesbian couples applying for marriage licenses has slowed to a trickle since a rush to the altar in the days after same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts on May 17, according to state records and a Globe survey of large cities and towns.
In the first week after the Supreme Judicial Court decision took effect on May 17, 2,500 gay and lesbian couples applied for licenses; 1,700 have done so in the six months since then, according to unofficial tallies by the Globe and state officials.
In all, the state's Registry of Vital Records has received an estimated 4,266 marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples, a spokeswoman said yesterday.
The City of Boston has experienced a significant slowdown. In the week after May 17, Boston reported 146 same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses, but in the six months since, 345 gay and lesbian couples have applied, an average of 14 a week, according to the Globe's survey.
The story is similar in Cambridge, which opened City Hall doors after midnight May 17 to accept license applicants. During that first week, 310 same-sex couples applied for licenses in Cambridge, the most in the state. But in the months since, only 267 same-sex couples have applied, an average of about 11 a week.
"Now it's just a steady part of our marriage-intentions process," said Margaret Drury, Cambridge city clerk.
The trend has been the same in less popular destinations for gay and lesbian couples seeking licenses.
"It has dropped off considerably since May," said City Clerk Richard Johnson of Lowell, which has had 27 applications from same-sex couples but almost none since the spring. "The majority of those were the first week or two. Now it's slowed to a trickle."
Governor Mitt Romney, an opponent of gay marriage, said yesterday that legal fights over same-sex marriage will continue to play out. One pending legal dispute concerns whether out-of-state couples can marry in Massachusetts.
"The legal challenges that are associated with [same-sex] marriage are associated with people moving from state to state and relating to the rights of children following divorce, and that of course is going to take a number of years before those features will be evaluated, so it's very early for those kinds of matters to be seen," said Romney, in New Orleans for the Republican Governors' Association conference.
"I certainly never suspected that people would have a hard time finding their way to the city clerk's office," he said. "That's not the issue. It's instead the rights of children vis-a-vis their parents and individuals as they move to other states that are the difficult issues that will need to be resolved. But that will resolve itself over time. "
A Globe survey of the largest communities in Massachusetts shows that in some cities and towns same-sex couples have sought licenses in numbers that far exceed their proportion of the overall population.
In Boston, gay or lesbian couples made up 491 of the 2,365 couples who have applied for licenses since May 17, or 21 percent of the total. Although exact numbers are hard to come by, the percentage of gay and lesbian adults in Boston is probably no more than 10 percent, according to Gary J. Gates, a demographer at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., and the author of the "Gay and Lesbian Atlas."
Some Boston marriages probably involve people coming to the city because it offered an accepting environment. Gates said the relatively high number of gay and lesbian couples getting married probably reflects pent-up demand.
"You have to remember that same-sex couples haven't had the ability to marry, so you would expect a surge that probably would not be sustained over time as it becomes a much more normalized process," Gates said.
In Provincetown and Northampton, same-sex couples made up the majority of people who received marriage licenses in the last six months.
In Provincetown, 912, or 97 percent, of the 937 couples who have applied for licenses since May 17 are same-sex couples. In Northampton, 325, or 66 percent, of the 494 couples who got licenses were gay or lesbian.
In Provincetown, 225 of the same-sex couples applied for licenses during the first week after May 17, and in Northampton 114 did. Other cities and towns also had relatively high percentages of same-sex couples applying: In Somerville 32 percent of the applicants were gay or lesbian couples, and in Springfield the percentage was 12 percent.
The first day after May 17, a Globe survey of 752 same-sex couples in 11 cities and towns found that two-thirds of those seeking marriage licenses were women. According to national surveys, 43 percent of lesbians are in couples at any one time, compared with 23 percent of men.
But the percentage of male and female same-sex couples seeking licenses differed greatly from city to city, according to the Globe survey conducted yesterday. In Boston, 63 percent of the same-sex applicants were men, while in Northampton 88 percent were women.
Yesterday, Gail Gilmore, 48, and Marisel Perez, 49, of Medford snapped photos of their marriage application as they handed it to a Cambridge city clerk's office staff member. "This is the year anniversary of the decision; so much has happened this year," Gilmore said. But because they have been together for 17 years, she said, "it already feels like a marriage."
Globe correspondents Elise Castelli and Emma Stickgold and Globe staff writer Yvonne Abraham contributed to this report.

Chirac Calls for 'New World Order'

'Logic of power' will lead to crisis in world affairs, Chirac says in London
Agence France-Presse
November 19, 2004

LONDON - Jacques Chirac yesterday called for a new world order based on multilateralism and appealed to the United States and Europe to "rally together" to promote peace in the Middle East. The French President warned that a world ruled by "the logic of power" is certain to be unstable and headed for conflict. Mr. Chirac -- in London to mark the centenary of the Entente Cordiale, a diplomatic agreement ending centuries of warfare between Britain and France -- has been an outspoken critic of the decision by the United States, Britain and a handful of others to invade Iraq without UN approval. He said a "sounder and fairer" international order would emerge through a collective approach, rather than a world based on might. "Granted, it is still possible to organize the world based on a logic of power," Mr. Chirac said. "Yet experience has taught us that this type of organization is, by its very definition, unstable and sooner or later leads to crisis or conflict." Mr. Chirac said the world community "must work together to revive multilateralism, a multilateralism based on a reformed and strengthened United Nations."

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Suspension of 'Abortion Pill' Sought

GOP seeks suspension of RU-486
By Joyce Howard Price
November 18, 2004

Republican lawmakers plan to reintroduce a bill to suspend the sale of RU-486, the abortion pill, and probe the process surrounding its approval now that three U.S. deaths have been linked to the drug.
The measure would ban the drug temporarily while the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm, conducts a six-month independent review of the approval process the agency used to declare RU-486 "safe and effective" in 2000.
One of the bill's co-sponsors, Sen.-elect and Rep. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, said questions remain about the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval of RU-486, whose generic name is mifepristone, under a protocol reserved for drugs intended to treat life-threatening diseases.
That decision, he said, which came during the Clinton administration, was "thoroughly political, not scientific."
If the FDA is found to have violated its own rules, the abortion drug would be banned indefinitely, said Mr. DeMint. If not, the suspension would be lifted.
The bill was introduced in November 2003 after the death of Holly Patterson, 18, of Livermore, Calif. She died of a bacterial infection seven days after she took RU-486 to end an unplanned pregnancy that began when she was a minor.
The drug stops a fetus from growing and expels it in a manner similar to a miscarriage.
Chief sponsors of the bill, officially known as the RU-486 Suspension and Review Act, also include Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Maryland Republican, and Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican.
"It's an unequivocal yes that we will reintroduce the bill," said Lisa Wright, Mr. Bartlett's press secretary, given that new safety warnings are being put on the drug after the deaths of three American women who took it.
On Tuesday, FDA officials confirmed that Miss Patterson and two other American women died after taking the drug. But they said they do not have evidence that RU-486 was responsible for the deaths.
Dr. Steven Galson, acting director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said RU-486 will remain on the market with a "strengthened" black-box warning, citing a risk of fatal bacterial infections, septic shock and heavy bleeding, and will be monitored.
Dr. Galson said he does not think the drug was related to the fatal infections that two of the women contracted.
To date, 360,000 American women have used RU-486 and the FDA has received about 600 complaints about "adverse events" associated with the drug, Dr. Galson said.
Monty Patterson, Miss Patterson's father, said a Canadian woman died Sept. 1, 2001, after taking RU-486 in a clinical trial. He said scientists determined that the same type of bacteria that killed her also was responsible for his daughter's death. RU-486 has not been approved in Canada, he said.
What's more, Mr. Patterson said, "There was another girl who died early this year in Sweden" after taking the abortion pill. "She bled to death," he said.
The measure to suspend and review approval of RU-486, commonly called Holly's Law, has 84 sponsors in the House and eight in the Senate.

Religion Reporters Are Scarce at TV Networks

Religion reporters scarce at networks
By Chris Baker
November 17, 2004

If the national exit polls were correct and "moral values" were one of the electorate's top concerns during the presidential election, what does that mean for television news?
The press exerts much energy reporting on scandals — whether they are political, corporate or religious — but other kinds of stories about morality are rare. The closest thing most outlets have to a morals reporter is the person who works the religion beat, which is common at major newspapers but almost nonexistent in TV newsrooms.
In the Washington area and other big cities, TV news directors cite budget constraints for the dearth of religious reporting by their organizations.
But it's not that simple, said Scott M. Libin, director of development and outreach for the Poynter Institute, a journalism school in St. Petersburg, Fla. Morals aren't easily defined and religion is still considered taboo, keeping many reporters from covering them, he said.
"When people say they want you to cover religion more, they mean their religion. It's not an easy thing to do in a meaningful way. At best, you are going to offend more people than you endear," Mr. Libin said.
Peggy Wehmeyer, who pioneered the religion beat at ABC's Dallas affiliate and then at the network itself, said there is a lack of "ideological diversity" in TV newsrooms.
News directors strive to hire women and minorities, but they are less concerned with hiring religious people, said Ms. Wehmeyer, whom ABC laid off in 2001 after budget cuts.
A study four years ago by the Center for Media and Public Affairs and the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative research group, found the proportion of journalists who regularly attend religious services rose from 14 percent in 1980 to 30 percent in 1995.
"In order to cover that beat, you have to at least understand people of faith. But am I saying you have to be an evangelical Christian to cover religion? Absolutely not," Ms. Wehmeyer said.
The CBS affiliate in Hunts-ville, Ala., is one of the few stations that covers religion regularly. Anchor Amy George has reported a twice-weekly segment called "For Goodness Sake" since 1999. She has covered the construction of Huntsville's first Hindu temple, examined how churches remain segregated and reported on the debate over displaying the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Supreme Court.
A TV newsroom that creates a morals beat wouldn't have to limit coverage to religion, said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a group funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts that promotes higher standards in reporting.
A morals reporter might file a story on leadership changes within the Catholic Church one day and pieces on classroom cheating or road rage the next, he said.
"You would need a much more clever reporter, or a more intuitive reporter, than you would on most other beats," Mr. Rosenstiel said.
WRC's Condi coup
WRC-TV (Channel 4) anchor Barbara Harrison's two-part interview with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice begins today on the NBC station's 6 p.m. newscast.
Ms. Harrison met Miss Rice on the D.C. social circuit and lobbied for a sit-down chat for more than a year. She finally got it Friday, four days before President Bush nominated Miss Rice to succeed Colin L. Powell as Secretary of State.

Alexander Movie 'Too Gay' For Audiences?


November 18, 2004 -- IS Oliver Stone's $150 million epic "Alexander" too gay for mainstream audiences? Stone, who previously stirred controversy with "JFK" and "Natural Born Killers," is on the hot seat again with his biopic about the bisexual Macedonian emperor, played by Colin Farrell, which opens next Wednesday.
As Alexander the Great, Farrell speaks softly and sports a blond pageboy and mini-toga, looking a bit like something out of Queer Eye for the Macedonian Guy.
In scenes that may raise eyebrows with some action-movie fans, the Irish actor kisses two men - a Macedonian soldier and a hunky topless Persian castrato named Bogoas, who becomes his lover - full on the mouth.
While Farrell has a steamy sex scene with an unclothed Rosario Dawson as Alexander's wife, Roxane, the film leaves little doubt that the true love of the conqueror's life is his boyhood friend turned fellow warrior, Hephaistion, portrayed by Jared Leto.
"It was said ... that Alexander was never defeated, except by Hephaistion's thighs," the aged Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins) says in narrating the saga.
While Alexander and Hephaistion are never seen in bed or even kissing, there are several deep hugs and lots of meaningful glances.
In one scene, a possessive Hephaistion turns the frustrated Roxane away from Alexander's tent - and later, Alexander accuses his jealous wife of fatally poisoning his very special pal.
"Alexander lived in a more honest time," Stone told Playboy magazine.
"We go into his bisexuality. It may offend some people, but sexuality in those days was a different thing. Pre-Christian morality. Young boys were with boys when they wanted to be."
"Alexander" was originally scheduled to open on Nov. 5, and there were widespread reports - since denied - that Warner Bros. postponed the release because of flak about the gay content at early screenings.
"I don't know how people are going to respond," Jeff Robinov, Warner Bros. president of production, confessed to Entertainment Weekly, "but I know Oliver didn't run from who this guy was."
At the movie's premiere Tuesday in Los Angeles, Farrell shot down rumors that a gay sex scene had ended up on the cutting room floor.
"There was nothing really re-edited, man," he said. "The film that you see is the film that was originally intended."
Says Playboy: "We may have had a few takes of them [Alexander and Hephaistion] kissing, but it wasn't my intention" to show anything physically explicit.
The director is also starting to get complaints from gay activists that the film soft-pedals Alexander's sexuality.
Village Voice columnist Michael Musto, who has long monitored homosexual behavior in Hollywood films, says they tend to shy away from showing the physical aspects of gay love, especially when major stars are involved.
"This film tries to have it both ways, like Alexander himself," Musto said.
"It can be hinted at, it can be talked about, but it can't be shown. Whenever gay stuff has been cut out of these movies, it seems to damage these movies at the box office."
But Hephaistion himself, Leto, insists that sometimes less is more.
"The love between these men goes far deeper than just sex," he said at the movie's press junket. "If they were to have a sex scene, it would imply a carnal relationship rather than a deeper relationship."
Stone is even more blunt.
"You only need five words. Alexander says, 'Stay with me tonight, Hephaistion,' and you get it. If you don't get it, f--- you, it's your problem."

Gagliano Said to Have Mob Ties

Stoolie: Canada pol in mob

Alfonso Gagliano has held titles in Canada that include labor minister, deputy House leader, ambassador to Denmark and minister of public works.
In New York he held a different kind of title, according to secret FBI documents obtained by the Daily News: "made" member of the Bonanno crime family.
Gagliano was identified as a longtime soldier in the Bonanno crime family by Frank Lino, a former Mafia capo-turned-informer.
Lino is now cooperating with the FBI and federal prosecutors as they slowly take apart the mob family to which he once swore allegiance.
Gagliano's name surfaced as Lino described the Bonanno family's operations in Montreal, which has served as an outpost for the Brooklyn-based group for decades.
He said he and a group of top Bonanno gangsters traveled to Montreal in the 1990s to let the northern branch office know the family had a new boss, Joseph Massino.
The group met at a catering hall, and during the meeting, a Bonanno gangster, Joseph Lopresti, introduced Gagliano to Lino as a made man in the family, FBI documents state.
Lino made a point of telling the FBI that only actual members of the Bonanno family were allowed to attend the meeting at the catering hall. Associates were banned.
Gagliano attorney Pierre Fournier did not return calls seeking comment yesterday.
For years, Gagliano was a fixture in Canada's national politics, rising through the ranks of the Liberal Party.
But his most powerful position was undoubtedly Canada's minister of public works and government services, the office that oversees the Canadian mint and awards most of Canada's government contracts.
In that capacity, Gagliano found himself embroiled in a growing scandal over potential corruption in the awarding of contracts for government advertising.
In February, he was dismissed as ambassador.
There is an ongoing investigation into allegations that government funds were funneled to large contributors to the Liberal Party for no-work contracts.
Lino was shown an array of photographs and identified Gagliano, the FBI documents state.
When he began cooperating with the FBI, Lino admitted he was involved in six murders, several attempted murders, loansharking, extortion and gambling.

Originally published on November 18, 2004


OTTAWA (CP) - Conservative Leader Stephen Harper raised published allegations Thursday that former Liberal cabinet minister Alfonso Gagliano was a member of a New York organized crime family.
The allegations were made in the New York Daily News. The paper said it based the information on FBI (news - web sites) documents. Gagliano, through his lawyer, flatly denied the accusation.
The former public works minister and ambassador to Denmark is currently embroiled in the sponsorship scandal.

Bishops Prove Key to Mobilizing Catholic Vote

Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2004 10:58 p.m. EST
Bishops Prove Key to Mobilizing Catholic Vote's Fr. Michael Reilly explains why Catholics turned out to vote
in record numbers in this year's presidential election.

It has been reported that the president's huge gains among Catholic voters
played a major role in capturing both Florida and Ohio, but little has been
said about the role of Catholic voters in Colorado and Massachusetts.

President Bush increased his share of the Catholic vote in Colorado by 10
points over his 2000 performance. Exit polling shows that his share of the
Catholic vote in Colorado jumped from 42 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in

In Massachusetts, a state that Bush was bound to lose, he actually increased
his share of the Catholic vote by 17 points - to 49 percent - despite the
fact that his opponent was a favorite son.

While this increase is indicative of Bush's 5 percent improvement
nationwide, why did Bush do so much better among Catholics in Colorado and

Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice may have the answer. In a
statement explaining her complaint to the IRS against Denver Archbishop
Charles Chaput, she laments that Chaput "has repeatedly engaged in voter
instruction by explicitly urging Catholics to vote against candidates who
support abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research."

Kissling continues:

"In fourteen of 28 of his columns in the archdiocese's weekly newspaper,
Archbishop Chaput has repeatedly and continuously urged voters to reject
candidates opposed to the organization's views. ... The archbishop has also
attempted to influence voters during public speeches, interviews and on
Friday, October 22, in an op-ed in the New York Times."

In other words, he tried to lead his flock.

On a national level, the Republicans have been very successful in reaching
Catholic voters. They mobilized 55,000 volunteers, hired 30 coordinators,
and distributed 76 million voter guides.

They set up a Web site,, and ran ads in Ohio and
Pennsylvania. Catholics Against Kerry also ran radio ads in key battleground

In Massachusetts, Archbishop O'Malley enlisted the help of former Boston
mayor Ray Flynn, who worked to inform Catholic voters.

"This was the perfect example of how lay Catholics should respond to the
challenge of defending our values," Flynn said. "It's not the intention to
make the Church or the Bishops more political, but to make lay Catholics
more involved."

Clearly, exit polls show, however, that the efforts of laymen are most
successful when they are reinforced by church leaders.

Pro-Abortion Advice Columnist Threatens Legal Action

Pro-Abortion Advice Columnist Threatens With Legal Action Email this article
by Maria Vitale Gallagher Staff Writer
November 16, 2004

Chicago, IL ( -- An advice columnist who directed a reader to take her daughter to Planned Parenthood and said it was alright if she stayed with a boyfriend who suggested she have an abortion has threatened with legal action for writing a news story exposing her column.

In her response to the woman's mother, Chicago Tribune advice guru Amy Dickinson said she should take her daughter to the nation's largest abortion business to receive guidance about her pregnancy choices. Later, the mother should wait with her daughter while she obtains a prescription for birth control pills.

After a story highlighted the advice given in Dickinson's column, she fired off an email to the pro-life news service complaining she has received extensive emails from pro-life advocates concerned about her column.

"Since you encourage your followers to email me, I have received a high volume of hateful email accusing me of being a murder [sic]," Dickinson wrote.

Despite quoting extensively from her letter, Dickinson claimed the story presented "a gross distortion of both the letter and my advice."

Dickinson went on to say she was forwarding the news story to editors at the Chicago Tribune "to see if there is any action -- editorial or legal -- we should take."

Steven Ertelt, the Editor and CEO of, said Dickinson should be ashamed of the advice she gave her reader.

"Here is a young single woman who had a miscarriage of her second pregnancy, loses her partner to an early death, and is now being exploited by a new boyfriend who admits he would rather her have an abortion than accept his duties as a father," Ertelt explained.

"Amy Dickinson says she should hitch a ride down to the local abortion facility and stick around with this exploitive boyfriend if she wants -- advice that is outlandish and does nothing to improve this young woman's tenuous situation," Ertelt said.

Ertelt said Dickinson's instruction to the woman's mother to take her to the leading abortion business in the United States to guide her decision-making is "patently offensive to the majority of Americans who are pro-life."

"If Dickinson doesn't like the backlash she has received, she should revise the counsel she's giving her readers," Ertelt added.

That Dickinson would threaten legal action proves she's "not confident enough in her own outrageous guidance to let it stand or fall on its merits," Ertelt explained.

Ertelt said would continue to expose pro-abortion advice columnists like Dickinson and "Dear Abby" who "do their readers a tremendous disservice by encouraging them to take further advice from groups like Planned Parenthood that prove time and time again they are not concerned about the best interests of women."

ACTION: You can contact columnist Amy Dickinson by e-mail at or by mail at Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

You can also contact the editor of the Tribune at

Related web sites:
See the original advice column Amy Dickinson wrote:,1,6378858.column?coll=chi-homepagenews2-utl

Planned Parenthood Hires Adult 'Services' Provider


Planned Parenthood has 'dungeon monitor' oversee some Indiana youth
outreach programs

Washington, D.C.- "Planned Parenthood has stooped to another disgusting low
by employing as an Indiana 'sexuality educator' a woman who has a
background with adult bookstores, escort services and even sado-masochism"
said Jim Sedlak, director of American Life League's STOPP International.
"The abortion chain continues to force its perversion on the public through
representatives such as this woman, who obviously has worked in areas where
the idea of what human sexuality is really about is greatly distorted."

On her Planned Parenthood business card, it states that she is a Sexuality
Educator and Trainer for Southern Indiana, as well as the Local Peer
Education Coordinator for Planned Parenthood. After further investigation,
it was discovered that the woman's biographical information includes
references to experience "as an adult book store clerk, BDSM dungeon
monitor and escort service phone dispatcher."

"The most disturbing part of this story is the fact that, through Planned
Parenthood, this woman is in charge of programs for children," said Sedlak.
"Planned Parenthood's website directs anyone interested in its teen peer
education program to contact her. That is a major problem."

Across the country, Planned Parenthood touts itself as a provider of
medically accurate sexuality education for young people. Because of this
erroneous label, the abortion giant has successfully infiltrated public
schools, Girl Scout troops, 4-H clubs, churches and other organizations
that work with children.

"It is intolerable that Planned Parenthood would consider a person with
this background as someone suitable to teach our young people," said
Sedlak. "It is especially troubling because of the fact that Planned
Parenthood often uses our tax money to support these programs, and
frequently sends these 'educators' into publicly funded schools."

"STOPP urges anyone who is troubled by this information to contact every
school board member and elected official in your area," said Sedlak. "We
must let all school officials know that Planned Parenthood's 'sexuality
educators' do not belong anywhere near our schools and our children."

'Pro-Choice' Gang Again Tries to Shut Down Pro-Life Display

Vancouver Provice Nov. 18, 2004 Page A8
Pro-choice group says UBC biased

The University of B.C. is favouring an anti-abortion group in a
freespeech battle over campus demonstrations, a pro-choice group says.
Anti-abortion students put up graphic posterboards yesterday on campus,
equating abortion in Canada to genocide in Nazi Germany, Rwanda and
Pro-choice protesters were required to stay outside a 9.75-metre bubble
zone, under university rules for the Genocide Action Project display
outside the student union building.
And the pro-choice protesters said the university showed its bias by
having campus security wash away chalked messages that described the
anti-abortion display as "racist," "sexist" and "hateful."
"The rationale that we were given for this was that those messages were
potentially inflammatory," said Students for Choice spokeswoman Jordana
"We're not allowed to write things that might be inflammatory, but
[abortion foes] are allowed to bring these [posters] that we know
traumatize students."
Genocide Action Project displays have in the past led to a spike in
student visits to peer-counselling services, said Paul Sutton, safety
co-ordinator for the UBC student society.
"There are people who feel like they've been targeted due to their race
or ethnicity. Some women who have had abortions before, this brings about a
great deal of emotional turmoil."
An "impartial feminist counsellor" was available at a table near the
demonstration for people needing help, he said.
Anti-abortion students from Lifeline, which put up the display of
materials also used in U.S. demonstrations, appreciated the bubble zone.
"All we want is to avoid a situation where students can stifle any
opinion on campus they don't agree with," said Lifeline spokesman Joel
Mawhorter. The graphic displays of dismembered fetuses, combined with
images of dead children from historic genocides, drive home the
right-tolife message, Mawhorter said.
"What we're trying to say is, 'Why is it wrong to kill people because of
their race or . . . religion or skin colour, but not wrong to kill a person
before they are born?'"
University spokesman Scott Macrae said campus security hosed off some
chalked messages.
"It was language that was sort of gratuitously hateful and it was
removed for that reason," Macrae said. "It was just inappropriate." He
defended the bubble zone. "We have obvious concerns about people's safety
and security, and this is the best way to do it."

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Gay Killing Case a Fabrication, Says Lawyer

Gay killing case a fabrication
lawyer: Manslaughter trial
Brian Hutchinson
National Post
November 16, 2004

VANCOUVER - Lawyers defending two men accused of clubbing a gay Vancouver man to death say police invented a case against their clients, by entering into an "unholy contract" with two young offenders already serving sentences for their roles in the fatal beating.

"The police are fabricating a case, based upon bought and sold testimony," defence lawyer James Millar told the B.C. Supreme Court yesterday.

Mr. Millar's remarks were made at the start of a long-anticipated trial resulting from the death of Aaron Webster, a 41-year-old homosexual. Mr. Webster's mangled corpse was found three years ago near a gay cruising area in Vancouver's Stanley Park.

An autopsy revealed he died from repeated blows to his head and neck, which caused an artery on the side of his skull to rupture.

Ryan Cran and Danny Rao have each pleaded not guilty to the charge of manslaughter. Mr. Cran was 18 at the time of Mr. Webster's death; Mr. Rao was 19.

Mr. Cran, a tall, slender man, is free on bail, while Mr. Rao, stocky and grim-faced, remains in custody. They are being tried together.

The downtown Vancouver courtroom where their case is being tried was filled yesterday with gays and lesbians who heard Crown prosecutors allege the two accused were members of a group that had made previous gay-bashing forays into Stanley Park and that they had on occasion sat in their vehicles and waited for gay men to approach before taking turns beating them.

The gay bashings began, it is alleged, after Mr. Cran had been confronted by a "peeping tom" while visiting Second Beach, a popular gay hangout in Stanley Park.

According to the Crown, Mr. Cran and Mr. Rao had been drinking with a number of other young men the night of Mr. Webster's death. They decided to drive to Stanley Park, where they ran into Mr. Webster walking, naked, towards their vehicle.

Armed with baseball bats, the men set upon Mr. Webster, it is alleged. The victim was later discovered by one of his friends, who was visiting the park to witness a meteor shower. Other witnesses who saw Mr. Webster being beaten will be called to testify by the Crown.

A long investigation into Mr. Webster's death led police to several suspects, among them Mr. Cran and Mr. Rao.

Two of their alleged cohorts pleaded guilty in Youth Court to manslaughter and were sentenced to short jail terms under conditions imposed by the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

In exchange for the light sentences, the two, who cannot be named, agreed to testify for the Crown in its case against Mr. Cran and Mr. Rao.

Defence lawyer Mr. Millar said in court yesterday that this deal, plus an incriminating statement that one of the convicted young offenders gave police, should preclude the two Crown witnesses from testifying against Mr. Rao and Mr. Cran.

The statement, said Mr. Millar, should be considered inadmissible, because it was obtained "illegally." According to Mr. Millar, one of the young offenders, who gave police a damning statement, was not informed of his rights and had been isolated and then "coerced" by police.

Mr. Millar asked Judge Mary Humphries to grant a voir dire, or trial within a trial, to reconsider whether the Crown's two star witnesses, now both adults, should be allowed to appear.

"This is bought and paid-for testimony," he repeated. "You should reject in totality the evidence of these two youths ... Is this something the court should condone?"

Judge Humphries reserved her decision on Mr. Millar's motion. The trial resumes today.

Constitution Not a 'Living' Document: Scalia

Posted on Tue, Nov. 16, 2004
Scalia tells university crowd to `get over' 2000 election
Knight Ridder Newspapers

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - (KRT) - Antonin Scalia, the controversial United States
Supreme Court justice, addressed a packed crowd at the University of
Michigan on Tuesday, taking the unusual step of taking questions from the
audience and drawing some boos - and some applause - during his answers to
those questions.

Scalia, who was at Rackham Auditorium to speak on the philosophy of
constitutional interpretation, was asked by a member of the audience
whether, if he had the chance, he would revisit his decision in the
Gore-Bush 2000 election. Scalia cut off the questioner , saying, "I'm
inclined to say it's been four years and an election. Get over it." That
drew loud boos from the crowd. Scalia voted with the 5-4 majority in 2000
to cease the recount of disputed votes in Florida.

Scalia continued, "The issue is not whether the decision should have been
decided in the Florida or U.S. supreme courts, but that the Constitution
had been violated. ... The only decision was to put an end to it after
three weeks and looking like fools to the rest of the world. It was too
much of a mess."

In his address, Scalia talked about originalism, explaining the concept of
strict interpretation of the Constitution.

"In the last 40 years ... we've become fond of the phrase that we have a
living document. But if something is wrong, then change the law or change
the Constitution, but don't re interpret the Constitution." He said
proponents of the living document concept and flexibility regarding the
Constitution are "dead wrong. "

He also said the Constitution doesn't say anything about such issues as
abortion rights and assisted suicide, and that those who are for or
against such measures should work toward passing laws that support their

Scalia, 68, was first invited to come to the University of Michigan Law
School by former dean Jeff Lehman several years ago and was scheduled to
lecture on campus in late fall of 2002. But the visit was canceled after
the Supreme Court agreed to hear the two University of Michigan admissions
cases, according to law school officials.

Last year, the high court upheld the use of race in the law school
admissions system in a 5-4 decision. Scalia dissented in that case. The
court in a 6-3 decision struck down the use of a system in the
undergraduate case that awarded minorities extra points. Scalia joined the
majority in that case.

Scalia is known for his outspoken and often sarcastic opinions.

In his dissent in the law school case, Scalia said the school's quest for
a "critical mass " of minority students to benefit all students amounted
to racial discrimination.

"If properly considered an educational benefit at all, it is surely not
one that is either uniquely relevant to law school or uniquely teachable
in a formal setting. And therefore if it is appropriate for the University
of Michigan Law School to use racial discrimination for the purpose of
putting together a critical mass that will convey generic lessons in
socialization and good citizenship, surely it is no less appropriate ...
for the civil service system of the State of Michigan to do so ...

"The nonminority individuals who are deprived of a legal education, a
civil service job or any job at all by reason of their skin color will
surely understand. "

Scalia was scheduled to spend two days on campus teaching law school
classes and delivering his public lecture Tuesday on constitutional
interpretation. The law school classes were open only to law students. He
also was scheduled to attend several private dinners.

A former law professor at the University of Virginia, Georgetown
University and the University of Chicago, Scalia is at home in a

In a rare departure from his usual wary relationship with the news media,
Scalia agreed to be photographed at the beginning of his lecture and take
audience questions..

Scalia will receive a $10,000 honorarium from the Helen L. DeRoy
Fellowship, a privately funded program established at the law school in
1980 to enhance legal education.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist was a DeRoy Fellow in 1989 ; former
Justice Potter Stewart also came to campus as a fellow in 1982.

School District Was Promoting Cross-Dressing Day

Nov. 16, 2004, 5:41PM
Texas school district nixes 'cross-dressing day'
Associated Press

Note to boys in the tiny Spurger, Texas, school district: Put away those
high heels and pleated skirts. Instead, wear black boots and Army
camouflage to school Wednesday.

A parent's concerns prompted the district 150 miles northeast of Houston
to scrap its annual "TWIRP Day" -- when boys dress like girls and girls
dress like boys-- in favor of "Camo Day."

TWIRP stands for "The Woman Is Requested to Pay," and for years Spurger
schools hosted the day during Homecoming Week to give boys and girls a
chance to reverse social roles and let older girls invite boys on dates,
open doors and pay for sodas.

Plano-based Liberty Legal Institute issued a news release Tuesday
reporting that it "came to the aid of a concerned parent requesting an
excused absence for her children on official cross-dressing day in her
children's elementary school."

"It is outrageous that a school in a small town in East Texas would
encourage their 4-year-olds to be cross-dressers," Liberty Legal Institute
attorney Hiram Sasser said in the release.

Tanner T. Hunt Jr., the school district's attorney, called Sasser's
statement "inflammatory and misleading." Hunt said the district never
planned or conducted a "cross-dressing day."

"They are a tiny little East Texas school district," said Hunt, a Beaumont
attorney. "It never occurred to them that anyone could find anything
morally reprehensible about TWIRP Day. I mean, they've been having it for
years, probably for generations, and it's the first time anybody has

Delana Davies, a 33-year-old mother of three, said she contacted
Superintendent Angela Matterson on Tuesday after reading a school notice
about "TWIRP Day."

Davies, whose 9-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter attend Spurger
Elementary, said she viewed the day not a silly Homecoming Week activity,
but as an effort to push a homosexual agenda in a public school.

"It's like experimenting with drugs," said Davies, who also has a
2-year-old daughter. "You just keep playing with it and it becomes
customary. ... If it's OK to dress like a girl today, then why is it not
OK in the future?"

After speaking with the Liberty attorney, Matterson agreed to exempt
Davies' son and older daughter from attending school on Wednesday.
However, district officials later decided to scrap "TWIRP Day" altogether
and replace it with "Camo Day," where students will wear camouflage

"I just think it's unfortunate," Hunt said. "It was just never intended to
be anything other than just an innocent, fun day for children."

Matterson did not return telephone messages from The Associated Press on

The Spurger event is not the first to cause controversy in a school district.

In Illinois, parent Laura Stanley complained this month about an "opposite
sex" dress-up day at Carrier Mills-Stonefort Elementary School.

Stanley said the activities sent a message of gender confusion and risked
subjecting her young daughters to sexual harassment by "a bunch of
adolescent boys who have suddenly grown breasts and are groping

"I don't think it was a liberal agenda," said Stanley, a 35-year-old
mother of eight biological and foster children. "I think it was just
foolishness, just being funny, being silly, but it opens the door for
other things to happen."

In New York, officials at Hastings High School put a stop to
Cross-Dressing Day in October after school officials suggested guys in
chiffon skirts and brassieres and gals with painted-on mustaches were
distracting and disrespectful to transgender people.

In Spurger, Davies said she will dress her son in camouflaged overalls and
her daughter in a camouflaged T-shirt and denim skirt for "Camo Day."

"I'm happy that it's turned out like it has," she said. "But I don't want
them pushing it on me again in a few years."

Historian Says Harvard U Supported the Nazis

Historian: Harvard supported Nazis

Boston, MA, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- A historian said Sunday Harvard University
was friendly with Nazi Germany after Americans became aware of the
regime's crimes in the 1930s.

Stephen Norwood, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, spoke of his
findings, published in a research paper titled "Legitimating Nazism:
Harvard University and the Hitler Regime," at a Boston University
conference on the Holocaust, the Boston Globe reported Sunday.

Harvard's official records portray the school as anti-Nazi, but Norwood
said Harvard had an ambiguous relationship with Germany in the mid-1930s.
Norwood said Harvard welcomed one of Hitler's closest deputies to campus
for his reunion in 1934, sent delegates to celebrate the University of
Heidelberg's anniversary in 1936 -- after the German university had purged
all its Jewish professors and students -- and declined numerous
opportunities to help Jewish refugees.

"Harvard was involved in active steps that helped legitimate the Nazi
regime in the West," Norwood said. "Harvard was among the worst
[universities], and its record was shameful and unjustifiable."

However, Harvard officials dispute Norwood's conclusions.

"The university was then and is now repulsed by everything that Hitler
represents," a Harvard spokesman said in a statement.

Iraq's Christians Flee the Violence

Iraq’s Christian community flees violence
Thousands flee terror; ‘we cannot live in this country anymore’
By Ned Colt
NBC News
Updated: 12:45 p.m. ET Nov. 16, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Father Daniel Hani silently prayed in the front pew at
Saint Joseph’s Cathedral in downtown Baghdad. These are particularly
trying times for Christians in Iraq, and Hani knows that more than most.

He's aware of the empty pews behind him, pews that would have been filled
just two years ago. Attendance is visibly down, even though most churches
have reduced the number of weekly services.

"It's a matter of fear," he said, referring to the two-thirds drop in
attendance at St. Joseph's. "A lot of Christians are trying to get out of
the country."

Fear is forcing many Iraqis — of all backgrounds — to flee. Every morning
a heaving crowd pushes toward the front window of the Baghdad passport
office. It seems like anyone who can afford it is applying for a passport
and trying to leave. A half million passports have been issued since June.

Under Saddam Hussein too, Iraqis tried to leave, but after he was toppled
from power in April of last year, the tide of emigrants was supposed to
turn. It hasn't, and it's not surprising considering the bombings and
kidnappings that have become a horrifying part of daily life.

Iraq's Christians say they're high on the target list. While Christians
comprise only 3 percent of Iraq's 25 million people, the Christian
community is one of the oldest in the Middle East and has long played an
important role in Iraqi politics, society and the economy.

On Monday, Pope John Paul II met with Albert Edward Ismail Yelda,
Baghdad’s new envoy to the Vatican, and expressed deep concern for
religious freedom in post-Saddam Iraq, where Islamic militants have bombed
several churches, spreading fear among the minority community.

“May your government work untiringly to settle disputes and conflicts
through dialogue and negotiation, having recourse to military force only
as a last resort,” the pope implored in his written address accepting the
credentials of Yelda.

“It is my hope that the Iraqi people will continue to promote their long
tradition of tolerance, always recognizing the right to freedom of worship
and religious instruction.”

Targeted as purveyors of Western vice
Christian community leader William Warda rummaged through a pile of papers
on his desk. Since the end of Saddam's rule, Warda has been keeping
scrupulous records of the attacks. From the mass of papers he plucked out
a list containing names, locations and dates.

"More than 200 Christians have been kidnapped," he said, "and though my
census is still incomplete, at least 60 of them have been murdered."

He turned back to the pile on the desk and pulled out four glossy
8-by-10-inch color photographs. They showed the bloodied bodies of a young
boy and girl, sprawled on the kitchen floor of their home. They were a
sister and brother, said Warda, shot to death by radical Islamists because
the children’s father ran a liquor store.

Christians are targeted for a number of reasons. The fact that they
operate liquor stores and beauty salons, anathema to radical Islamists,
marks them as an obvious target. But more broadly because they are
perceived as being comparatively well off — solidly middle class — and as
such, easy targets for kidnapping rings.

They are also targeted because they are seen as being staunch supporters
of the American-led invasion last year, and even now many work with the
international coalition.

Scapegoats of religious extremists
Middle East analyst Jonathan Paris said Iraqi Christians are a vulnerable
minority, the scapegoats of religious extremists.

"Christians are deemed to be crusaders — part of the alliance with the
Americans and the British who are occupying Iraq — so the Christians are
uniquely targeted by the Islamists, by the radical extremists for being
associated somehow with the American occupation," Paris said.

It's not just individuals who are being targeted, but places of worship as
well. The first Sunday in August is a day seared into the minds of Iraqi
Christians as five churches were simultaneously bombed, leaving 11 dead
and more than 50 wounded. Since then, a half-dozen more churches have been

Many priests are reluctant to speak publicly, fearful of attracting
unwanted attention and concerned about contributing to the Christian
exodus. Hani said the church is trying to support parishioners, whatever
their decision.

"Our country is part of our identity — it's how we identify ourselves. And
if Iraq loses its Christians, then Iraqi civilization loses a lot,” said

Exodus continues
Iraq's Migration Minister Pascale Isho Warda has said at least 40,000
Christians have fled the country since the U.S. invasion. Most have gone
to neighboring Jordan and Syria, and from there they hope to get to
Europe, the United States and Canada.

Among those trying to get out is a dentist with a particularly painful
experience. He had a relative kidnapped, a friend killed and his nephew
beheaded — a murder that was posted on an Islamist Web site.

The dentist's wife urged him not to speak to the media, fearful of
retaliation and for the safety of his two young children. But he told us
he felt obligated to speak out, on the condition that he was not
identified, about what he described as the nightmare of life in his

"I love Iraq, but what can I do? We cannot live in this country anymore.
We will leave it to the terrorist."

(Ned Colt is an NBC News correspondent. He was recently on assignment in
Iraq. Reuters contributed to this report.)